I first heard that some family members had died in a shipwreck from my aunt, Luella (Munroe) Bates. She didn’t recall the details, but said that a book had been written about it. The book, of course, had been lost over the years. This article is the first of several describing the search for those family members, the shipwreck, and the book.
Sometime later, I was looking into the family of Beatrice (Lockwood) Bates, my father’s mother. I found that she had an aunt, niece, and nephew who all died on the same date. The aunt was Mabel Blanche Holman, born February 18, 1863 in Michigan. Her husband’s name was Otto Shumway Lewis. Now I had a family to research, and I indeed found a fascinating tale of a shipwreck, as well as several other interesting family stories.
Lewisiana or The Lewis Letter
One of the first sources of information I found on the Lewis family was Lewisiana or The Lewis Letter, a collection of monthly inter-family newsletters printed from 1893 to 1907.
The entire collection is available (free) online at Lewisiana or The Lewis Letter. Monthly issues are searchable and may be downloaded as .pdf files.
The collection contains two issues with references to Otto Lewis. His mother, Elizabeth (Shumway) Lewis, apparently supplied the details for both . Her marriage and family is documented on page 124 of Vol XIII No. 8, published in February 1903.
The Otto Lewis Family
The family of Otto and Mabel is documented on page 140 of the next issue, Vol. XIII No.9.
Mabel Blanche Holman and Otto Shumway Lewis were married on May 22, 1881 in Williams, Bay County, Michigan. They had a son Glenn Holman, who was born Feb. 17, 1883 and died on the same date one year later.
On March 17, 1900, Mabel and Otto adopted two children, a brother and sister. They were Florence Carr, born Feb. 6, 1895, and Ray Carr, born March 20, 1898. I have not determined how the couple came to adopt the pair. There is no apparent Carr connection to either Mabel or Otto. Later documents show that the couple considered the children their very own.
Otto was successful in the lumber business and owned a lumber mill in Gold Bar, Washington. In May, 1906 he sold the mill and the following October the couple purchased a residence in Pasadena, California. Mabel had several relatives living in nearby Santa Ana. The family traveled quite a bit during this time, visiting friends and relatives both in California and Washington.
On July 20, 1907 the family set sail from San Francisco on the passenger steamship Columbia, headed to Portland, Oregon. The ship the first to be outfitted with electric lighting, the first commercial use of the Edison light bulb.
Shortly after midnight on July 21, the SS Columbia collided with another steamship, the SS San Pedro in a dense fog about 15 miles off the coast of Mendocino. The Columbia was so severely damaged that it sank completely in less than 10 minutes. Although Otto fought heroically to save his family, Mabel and both children were lost to the sea. A total of 88 people lost their lives.
In the next several articles, I will go over the details of the sinking of the SS Columbia, including a first person account by Otto himself.